Sunday, July 31, 2016

St Ibbs

I am not much for traditions or for returning over again to the familiar. But growing up, I sort of had one tradition, namely to celebrate my birthday on the tiny island of Ven, located in the middle of the Øresund strait between Sweden and Denmark. For the last day of July every year, I travelled back to its completely flat agricultural plateau to go biking with my family. Even when living in Korea I made it back one year, right after Eddie’s first birthday. A few years earlier I had been in Oslo for a summer school. After being completely soaked by the rain the night before, I took a SAS flight down to Copenhagen so I could celebrate my birthday on a yellow rental bike.

“how intense the hawthorn thickets smelled on Ven yesterday, and how blindingly white St Ibbs was standing against the blue sky”

On the southern coastline, steep cliffs rise up, more yellow than white but still reminding me of Rügen or parts of the Norfolk coast. On the top of those cliffs, a medieval church called St Ibbs offers spectacular views of the sea below. It is a simple white church, far from the grandeur of European cathedrals. Being there, summers past all feel as one. The loss, the hope, and then, more recently, Eddie’s overwhelming happiness of learning to walk on its green lawn.

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